The Domino Effect

April 13, 2009
By Anonymous

A disoriented Cotton Mouse is entangled in mud and leaves, burrowing deeper and deeper within a hole. As the mouse takes short, gasping breaths, its aching lungs fill up with smoke. The forest this feeble creature once called home now exists only in the form of tree stumps and ash. The loss of this habitat and the animals who resided within it upsets the balance of life, ultimately causing humans to suffer in the end. As one domino is forced to fall, the rest behind it collapse. While forest fire does happen naturally, more often than not, human activity directly causes these disasters and other natural calamities as well. Because of humanity’s carelessness towards the environment, plant and animal species are becoming endangered, which will inevitably affect the human race.
Human needs conflict with the needs of animals and plants on a daily basis. Popular demand for oil, manufactured goods, and healthy crops damages the woodlands and waters of the world because these demands produce nature’s kryptonite, pollution. Pollution not only destroys numerous environments, but also jeopardizes the survival of plant and animal species. At least twenty-four percent of plant and animal species are affected by pollution (Wilcove 8). One factor that leads to the downfall of many habitats and their inhabitants is oil production because oil emits pollution through acid rain and oil spills (DiSilvestro, “Humanity” 267). Acid rain, a mixture of fossil fuels and air, falls to the earth in the form of rain or snow and decimates marine and land life by poisoning plankton and wiping out vegetation that other species rely on for survival. (Lampton, “How Species” 50). Oil spills produced by offshore oilrigs unleash poisons into the ocean that erode underwater ecosystems and affect a species’ natural diet. For example, the Green Turtle mistakes the tar spilled from offshore oilrigs as its meal. Today, there are less than one thousand breeding Green Turtles because of offshore oil drilling. Besides tar, garbage entangles and drowns Green turtles because they mistake plastic bags and fish nets as edible jellyfish (Alden 65). Sadly, waste products pollute waters around the world, “more than 16 trillion gallons of sewage and industrial waste, much of it laden with toxins, are dumped into coastal waters and rivers every year” (DiSilvestro, “If Dolphins” 122). This vast amount of waste pollutes harbors and bays in the United States, and it endangers and wounds species that are located in these environments (DiSilvestro, “If Dolphins” 122). In addition to pollutants produced by oil and litter, pesticides used to protect crops emit pollutants that not only affect insects but ecosystems, too. Pesticides infect a whole ecosystem by passing through the food chain. Also, infected species that are pregnant can pass the pollutant to their baby causing the baby to die while in the womb; thus, species are unable to reproduce and become endangered (Lampton, “How Species” 50). Overall, humans are living in a world full of their own garbage because their greed drives their actions. Humans endanger the live of animals in order to obtain the following: oil, manufactured products, and healthy crops.
Like pollution, Deforestation is a manmade disaster that endangers species and wipes out entire ecosystems. Deforestation endangers at least eighty-five percent of animal and plant species (Wilcove 8). A majority of species that reside in the following regions in the United States are endangered because of deforestation: Hawaii, California, the southeastern coastal states, and the southern Appalachian Mountains. In these areas, deforestation occurs frequently because of rapid urbanization (Wilcove 231). Urbanization endangers species by destroying important ecosystems, such as rain forests and coral reefs. Rain forests are razed and replaced by farmlands that supply beef to fast food industries. Ironically, rain forests do not contain soil that is good for farming, so the slash and burn technique is used to produce ashes to enrich the soil. Sadly, rain forests and their inhabitants are not as significant to humans as cheap, greasy foods. (Lampton, “How Species” 37). Besides rain forests, yew trees have been burned and cut down because they are seen as useless. However, researchers have discovered that the yew bark can prevent certain types of cancers. Unfortunately, too few of the trees are alive today to be used to stop cancer (DiSilvestro, “Biodiversity” 19). Another ecosystem that is affected by deforestation is the coral reef. Over 50 countries contain coral reefs that are withered by the silt and soil erosion produced by deforestation (Wells 172). Overall, the eradication of rain forests, trees, and coral reefs cause more species to be added to the Endangered Species List. According to Wilcove, a Ecologist of Environmental Defense, “…the current ‘hot spots’ for endangered species will get significantly hotter long before other regions of the country feel much heat” (Wilcove 231). In this quote, Wilcove predicts that areas inhabited by a handful of endangered species will gain even more endangered species in the future unlike places that contain only a few species facing extinction. Therefore, not all the world will notice the increase in endangered species (Wilcove 231). Thus, deforestation will continue destroying ecosystems because humanity is unaware of their destructive actions.
A handful of people wonder why humanity should take responsibility for the deaths of other species (Lampton, “Does Extinction” 56).These people believe that extinction is a natural occurrence that should not be prevented because the loss of biodiversity does not hinder mankind (DiSilvestro, “Biodiversity” 20). This argument overlooks the point that the present mass extinction does not resemble past extinctions because of “a predicted species loss of more than one species per hour” (Lampton, “Does Extinction” 56). Therefore, the present mass extinction is unnatural due to the high number of dying and endangered species (Lampton “Does Extinction” 56). The loss of one species affects all who depend upon that species for survival, even humans; hence, “a domino effect comes into play” (DiSilvestro, “Biodiversity” 20). Humanity fails to notice that they are the creators of this domino effect, and that they too are affected by this destructive chain. For example, humans do not realize that basic human necessities, food, apparel, and medicine, are made available because of the existence of plants and animals (Godoy 2). Ultimately, the loss of biodiversity affects all life forms (Godoy 1). Nonetheless, people still argue against preserving biodiversity because they deem human necessities, such as housing, farmland, and factories, to be more important then the survival of a species. Though land development is essential for human survival, humans must learn to balance their consumption rate with the needs of other species in order to end the chain reaction they started (Lampton, “Does Extinction” 58). Overall, arguments against preserving endangered species are impractical because humanity depends on nature and its inhabitants for survival.
While humanity continues to carelessly consume the planet’s resources, they leave behind a trail of pollution and deforestation which endangers ecosystems and their inhabitants. Humanity’s reckless, self-centered actions cause chain reactions that affect the entire cycle of life. The extinction of a species affects the cycle of life because all the species that depend on the deceased for survival lose substantial resources; therefore, they then become endangered or fall prey to extinction. Overall, humanity must change their detrimental ways in order to prevent the world from becoming a wasteland that lacks creatures like the Cotton Mouse who may be small in size but is a big part of the cycle of life.

Works Cited
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Godoy, Julio. “Report: 25 Percent of Animal Species Have Disappeared Since 1970.” Inter Press
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Wilcove, David S. The Condor’s Shadow. New York: W.N. Freeman and Co., 1999.

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